168 Hours a Week: How Do You Want to Spend Them?

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

"A week has 168 hours; if you work 50 hours and sleep 56 (8 per night), that still leaves 62 hours for other things."

—Laura Vanderkam, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

I just finished reading through Laura Vanderkam's short before-breakfast guide, and it reaffirmed a gut sense I've often felt: I have more willpower in the morning, more creativity, and the simple fact of fewer "demands" or requests coming in opens up my time in a much more guilt-free way than later in the day.

Vanderkam is also the author of 168 hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, and her quote above got me thinking:

How DO I spend those 62 free hours? And how do I want to be?

Earlier this week I had the frustrating feeling of getting buried by my email inbox. The more I answered, the more that came in, the MORE overwhelmed I felt, not less. I intended on a short one-hour email burst but it spiraled out into several hours, and somehow I still felt behind on my overall task list . . . and completely exhausted.

I have systems, I have canned responses, I have boundaries — and yet still, something left me feeling like there was room for improvement in how I tackle this aspect of my work.

To counter afternoon email fatigue, I've realized my very best days start with the following morning formula:

  • Reading with a cup of french press coffee (or three, hah)
  • Doing a short 10-20 minute meditation session, then
  • Tackling 1-2 big frogs: usually a writing-related task and a strategic business-building task

If I can start my day with that set of activities, it takes tremendous pressure off of what gets done later in the day when I have less energy after my block of calls and meetings ends.

What is your morning trifecta?

According to Vanderkam:

"The best morning rituals are activities that don't have to happen and certainly don't have to happen at a specific hour. These are activities that require internal motivation. The payoff isn't as immediate as the easy pleasure of watching television or answering an email that doesn't require an immediate response, but there are still payoffs. The best morning rituals are activities that, when practiced regularly, result in long-term benefits."

She says the most successful people use their mornings for these things:

  1. Nurturing their careers — strategizing and focused work
  2. Nurturing their relationships — giving their families and friends their best
  3. Nurturing themselves — exercise and spiritual and creative practices

What is one thing you could do in each category to boost your mornings?

Podcast Pair: Launches, Leaps & Big Fears

On the topic of big creative work, two 30-minute behind-the-business podcasts to share:

Melissa Anzman and I talk about the bumps and successes of launching JennyBlake.me:

An interview with Paul King from Entprewired on how to face your biggest fears (and why I enjoy being an advocate for scardy-cats like myself):

Templates mentioned during these podcasts:

templateFor Authors: 15-Tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet – 15-Tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet (as recommended by Seth Godin!) – to help creatives get organized (and stay sane) around a big launch. Tabs include: online promo, offline promo, partnerships, etc.

templateUltimate Website Checklist Template: Everything you need to know to launch, re-launch or re-brand a website — strategy, design, development, copywriting, launch-planning and last minute details.

templateFor Bloggers: Editorial Calendar Template for 2014 This is the format I use to plan posts and newsletters; particularly helpful if you have multiple contributors, sites or guest posts.

So how about you:

What are you favorite morning rituals? What do you want to carve out time to do more of? Less?